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January 10, 2013

The Keeper Reaper

Starting Pitching for 1/10/13

by Paul Sporer

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This week’s Keeper Reaper with starting pitchers tackles some of the bigger names who might be putting you to a tough decision depending on your league parameters. 

Zack Greinke | Los Angeles Dodgers
Shallow (30 keepers): No
Medium (60 keepers): Fringe
Deep (90 keepers): Yes
NL-only (60 keepers): Yes
Super Deep (200 keepers): Yes

Despite being one of the most coveted free agents during the offseason and joining a new team, Greinke’s family doesn’t have to pack up and move. Well, unless they never fully moved to LA after Zack was traded there from Milwaukee. At any rate, he is staying in LA while heading back to the more favorable league. A sabermetric darling, Greinke enjoyed yet another season where his peripherals suggested that he should have been better than he was, as evidenced by every ERA estimator in existence. It is time to start holding Greinke accountable for missing those marks, however, as we can’t just chalk it up to mere bad luck anymore.

Greinke is prone to more implosion starts than you would expect from guys of his caliber, and those outings conspire to keep his ERA higher than it “should be” based on how great he is in the overwhelming majority of his starts. And if you watch these starts, you see that this isn’t just a rash of bad luck, in most cases, but simply poor performance. Since 2010, his 13 starts of allowing six or more earned runs are tied for the fifth-highest total in baseball.

The guys ahead of him include names you won’t be surprised to see: Jeremy Guthrie (19), A.J. Burnett (18), Justin Masterson (17), Randy Wolf (14), and Luke Hochevar (14). He is tied with five others at 13, and again most of the names won’t surprise: Carl Pavano, Paul Maholm, and Gavin Floyd make you say “yeah, makes sense”, while Yovani Gallardo and Josh Beckett are on or near the level of Greinke in terms of surprise.

We saw in 2009 how amazing he can be, but we are now three years removed from that Cy Young season, and it is time to start preparing for a mid-3.00s ERA while understanding the upside is there if he can avoid some of the meltdown starts. So while he grades out brilliantly with the statistics, and some might see him as worthy of keeping in that shallow format, I would pass and invest elsewhere.

Yu Darvish | Texas Rangers
Shallow (30 keepers): Yes
Medium (60 keepers): Yes
Deep (90 keepers): Yes
AL-only (60 keepers): Yes
Super Deep (200 keepers): Yes

Unless you had expectations for Darvish to match his sub-2.00 ERAs from Japan, it is hard not to see his 2012 MLB debut as a success. He was exactly what I expected with flashes of brilliance but some kinks that led to a solid, though not overwhelmingly amazing, season. His strikeout capability was definitely amazing, and it is his meal ticket to fantasy stardom. An excellent video surfaced this week that cataloged all 221 of his third strikes in crystal clear HD YouTube video. I posted it at my site with a host of second- and third-level statistics about his strikeouts, so feel free to enjoy that after reading through this and every single article on BP. It is hard to pick a favorite of the strikeout stats, but I really liked this one: “Yu’s 59 three-pitch strikeouts were first in the American League and third overall behind Cliff Lee’s 70 and R.A. Dickey’s 62.” It really gets to the heart of his dominance.

His stuff is NSFW, and it sets him up for a huge 2013. Given his early average draft position of 37th overall—the seventh starter off the board—you should consider keeping him in all the formats covered in Keeper Reaper if you want to have a chance at his 275 strikeouts. His sparkling September (2.21 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 39 K, and 7 BB in 37 innings) shows his potential for greatness, and if he can start carving into his 4.2 BB/9 for sustained periods of time, the American League is in deep trouble.

Aroldis Chapman | Cincinnati Reds
Shallow (30 keepers): No
Medium (60 keepers): No
Deep (90 keepers): Fringe
NL-only (60 keepers): Yes
Super Deep (200 keepers): Yes

This one is really tough for all of the obvious reasons. It seems like we have at least a couple huge reliever-to-starter transitions every year now, including several that worked very well last year, but each case is so unique that even using the recent history really isn’t much help. Chapman was so great as the Reds’ closer last year in 72 innings, but the plan from the jump was to eventually make him a starter; he can offer tons more value in a starter’s allotment of innings than he can in his 70-75 as a reliever, even at his super-elite level. The best way to deploy, at least in my estimation, would be as a 100-120 inning super-reliever, but that role has gone the way of the dodo bird (poor dodo bird).

It’s easy to look at Chapman’s work out of the pen last year and dream of how great he can be as a starter, except it’s not even close to a 1:1 translation. First off, how much of his 98-mph velocity will come to the rotation with him? It’s easy to give it all you’ve got for an inning or two, but you have to pace yourself to go five-plus. Then there is the pesky issue of him not having a viable third pitch. And while he wasn’t exactly Daniel Bard the last time he started (check out his minor league numbers as a starter), he certainly wasn’t conjuring up thoughts of a fantasy ace either. He posted a 4.05 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 10.3 K/9, and 5.4 BB/9 in 67 innings across 13 starts. In short: be careful about placing too much emphasis on what you saw in 2012 because it’s not always a strong indicator of rotation performance. And don’t overpay.

Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Paul's other articles. You can contact Paul by clicking here

19 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Hall of Fame Voting (01/09)
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Fantasy Article The Keeper Reaper: Rel... (01/09)
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Fantasy Article The Keeper Reaper: Out... (01/11)
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